USA, New York. A research team at Columbia University in New York used a 3D printer to produce a thin slice of chicken meat. Instead of cooking it in the oven or on the grill, blue and red laser beams were passed over the meat by computer. The blue light cooked the meat, while the infrared light roasted it as if it had been grilled.
As a result, the meat was not only well cooked, but also tasted better to test eaters in a blind tasting than normally cooked meat. It had shrunk less due to the laser and had also lost less water, so it was even juicier.
Additive manufacturing of food is a method of creating three-dimensional edible products layer-by-layer. While food printers have been in use since 2007, commercial cooking appliances to simultaneously cook and print food layers do not yet exist. A key challenge has been the spatially controlled delivery of cooking energy.
Here, the researchers explore precision laser cooking which offers precise temporal and spatial control over heat delivery and the ability to cook, broil, cut and otherwise transform food products via customized software-driven patterns, including through packaging.
Using chicken as a model food, they combine the cooking capabilities of a blue laser (λ = 445 nm), a near-infrared (NIR) laser (λ = 980 nm), and a mid-infrared (MIR) laser (λ = 10.6 μm) to broil printed chicken and find that IR light browns more efficiently than blue light, NIR light can brown and cook foods through packaging.
Blutinger, J.D., Tsai, A., Storvick, E. et al.: Precision cooking for printed foods via multiwavelength lasers. npj Sci Food 5, 24 (2021).